Just as MP3s changed the way we listen to music, Amazon wants to shake up our reading habits with Kindle Singles.
In the past, writers generally had to choose between a 10,000-word news or magazine story and a proper book. Amazon says the digital book market creates a space in between, for writing that's "twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book."
I agree with the sentiment, but Amazon's description of the content available -- in the company's words, "a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event" -- seems too vague to envision. Here are some concrete ideas that I'd like to see from Kindle Singles right away:
Big investigative newspaper reports sometimes span several days, far exceeding 10,000 words in their entirety. They're also a chore to read on the Web. I'd love to see the best investigative stories from newspapers around the world packaged as Kindle Singles -- it might even create a bigger market for this kind of journalism.
Single Short Stories
Short stories, sold individually, are one kind of writing that would actually fit the Kindle Singles name. Previously, there was no market for short stories outside of compilations, but the digital format allows authors to sell their smaller works without banding together with other authors. This would work for essay anthologies, as well.
In video games, episodic content has come into vogue as paid vignettes that launch after a game's initial release. And in television, serial dramas like Lost and The Sopranos have hooked viewers. In digital form, fiction authors can break down their writing in a similar way.
Individual magazine articles might be too short to qualify as Kindle Singles, but what if writers and mega-publishers like Conde Nast and Time Inc. bundled their best long-form stories in creative ways? A Single might consist of the best work from a single author, or a collection of writing on a single topic across several magazines.
Non-Fiction E-Book Lite
Think of smartphone apps. Sometimes, you'll find a paid app, and a free "Lite" version with fewer features. Non-fiction books could work in similar fashion, with Lite Kindle Singles sold as cheaper, less elaborate versions of the full book. That way, you can get the gist of one author's political analysis or scientific theory, and move on to the long version if you're really interested to learn more.